The Women in Science and Engineering Roundtable (WISER), an initiative of the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women at Case Western Reserve University, has announced the launch of its Program Rewarding Innovation in STEM Entrepreneurship (PRISE). PRISE, developed in collaboration with partners from CWRU LaunchNET and Sears think[box], aims to address the underrepresentation of women in entrepreneurship.

The inaugural class is composed of the following students:

  • Ridaa Ali
  • Sunayana Jampanaboyana
  • Rebekah Monnier
  • Tessa Stevens
  • Ern Tan
  • Sonia Velu

The program was initiated thanks to the support of a long-standing champion of women and alumna, Sue Friedman Klarreich. “A program for young women in STEM to become knowledgeable about entrepreneurship has been a long-held objective for me. It has been very gratifying to work with the WISER team of the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women who have designed such a unique program. Congratulations to the six outstanding young women who are the first participants in this exceptional new venture and to CWRU for establishing PRISE,” said Klarreich.

Associate Director for Women in Science and Engineering Sarah Dunifon stated: “We have so much opportunity at Case Western Reserve University within the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem. PRISE is an exciting new initiative which helps ensure that all students are benefiting from the wonderful resources here, and are empowered to make their mark on the world.”

While the number of women-owned businesses has more than doubled over the past 20 years, women continue to be underrepresented in many areas of entrepreneurship. In 2018, TechCrunch reported that women-led startups secured only 2.2. Fewer than 10% of general partners in venture capital firms today are women. However, 849 new businesses are started by women each day in the U.S., according to American Express OPEN’s annual State of Women-Owned Businesses report.

PRISE adds to the ecosystem of innovation at CWRU by offering an often overlooked demographic—undergraduate women students—a chance to explore their entrepreneurial ideas. WISER joins CWRU LaunchNET (a resource center focused on entrepreneurship, innovation and design) and Sears think[box] (a seven-story innovation space for aspiring entrepreneurs and university researchers) in their quest to provide education and resources to the campus community to pursue innovative ideas.

Said Dunifon: “We know that over 40 percent of incoming Gen Z students plan to forego traditional employment in favor of entrepreneurship. PRISE is a response to this trend, which also recognizes the underrepresentation of women in both STEM and entrepreneurial spaces. The program allows students to build skills and experience in these spaces, while focusing on their STEM coursework. The opportunities that could result from this crossover are endless.”

Throughout the yearlong program, PRISE fellows will receive individual coaching and mentoring, educational sessions focused on starting new ventures, and startup funding to pursue their big idea. In its inaugural year, six undergraduate STEM students are pursuing ideas ranging from data management to factory robotics to medical technology.

With a focus on growing student skills and self-efficacy, the program provides training and support to new entrepreneurs, promotes inclusive and equitable pipelines for women pursuing STEM entrepreneurship and innovation, and ultimately aims to increase the number of female founders in the space.

Said Angela Clark-Taylor, director of the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women: “PRISE supports student innovators in building their startup from an idea to a flourishing business, furthering the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women’s work as a partner for gender equity in STEM, as well as an incubator for the women of CWRU to grow innovative businesses, programs and research.”

The Flora Stone Mather Center for Women empowers all women and promotes gender equity and inclusion throughout the Case Western Reserve University community. As a catalyst for positive social change, the center integrates research and advocacy to engage and inspire people of all gender identities to advance gender equity and inclusion.